Tuesday 13 November 2018

'We don't need drink for a fun night out'

Once they were noted for drunken antics but Junior Cert parties have changed, says Alison O'Riordan

Short skirts, fake tan, killer heels and mayhem on the streets was to be expected with last Wednesday's Junior Cert results. But the capital city seems to have caught up with its once wayward children and this year all appeared to be under control. The message finally seems to be hitting home to our youth.

There was no getting away with much this year. Students had to register for their tickets in advance for organised events and pick them up before the big day.

Security was high in the establishments that were throwing celebration bashes and students were frisked and bags checked by club personnel in fluorescent vests. The gardai had even sent a letter to students warning them about alcohol consumption.

Strictly alcohol-free, the Wesley disco in Donnybrook was my first port of call. This disco has been a stalwart of the teen social scene in south Dublin. I went there to celebrate my results on my big night all those years ago. Let's just say times have certainly changed and it was a very different Wesley on Wednesday night to the one I remember.

I met four boys from St Michael's College in Ballsbridge who were hoping to get a glimpse of the action at the Donnybrook venue although they had not purchased tickets in advance. One of the four boys said: "Things have really calmed down in recent years, it is not that bad at all, people say it should be called the x-cert but to be honest that is only hype, I haven't seen one person vomiting tonight and that's the truth. It is all harmless fun. These events are hugely popular, all the tickets were sold out to get into Wesley as there is such demand. So we befriended a group of girls and pretended they were our girlfriends to get in but, unfortunately, that didn't work."

A security guard at the gates of Wesley disco said: "There has been no real trouble at all tonight. All the teenagers have been very good; of course, one or two parents have had to be called, but that has been the exception. All in all they have been very well behaved in comparison to other years. This is a great venue for the students to come to as parents are happy not having them wander the streets of the city-centre. The big nights had a reputation for being mayhem in the past, but they are better-organised recently."

Two girls from Loreto Foxrock, who had got all honours in their exams, were out to celebrate in non-alcoholic style. They told me: "We don't need drink for a good time; we are still having so much fun without it. This has been one of the best Wesley's yet, it is not too packed and there are certain rules that we must all stick, to the main one being if you are drunk you are kicked out. It has become very strict because of recent episodes, but to be honest what is said about Junior Cert results night is totally dramatised.

"Bad behaviour is not tolerated. If there is a fight, the people involved are all asked to leave and even if a guy and girl are getting up to all sorts in a corner, they are stopped immediately and not allowed back in. I have never seen anything negative here so I'm so glad my parents let me come and we didn't miss the night. If anything does go on, when spotted it's over. It is such a good experience. If you look around you will just see all the boys and girls dancing, it is all under control. The bouncers are strict, but they are your friends at the end of the day."

Donie Bulger is function organiser of Wesley and he believes the behaviour of the students has improved. He said: "What the media have said in the past has been proven not to be the case tonight. There is zero tolerance for misbehaviour here, everyone is just out to enjoy their night. Step out of line at your peril. Ninety-nine per cent are out for a night of fun. I feel moral behaviour has really improved in recent years. The kids are so articulate, they all have a focus and know where they want to go in life. I don't think we do our young people justice. They study for six months so they are entitled to a big night out."

Some 2,000 students also gathered at the National Show Centre in Swords. Scream, an all-ticket event organised by Grooveyard Productions and costing punters €38, began at 8pm. Those who attended were treated to live DJ sets by Bob Sinclair and 2fm's Nikki Hayes. A good-tempered crowd gathered in the large car-park outside. One parent said: "I dropped my daughter off here tonight and I asked her not to drink. She is sensible enough and an event like this is a great way for all the students to celebrate together. I will be back to pick her up at 11pm tonight as she has school in the morning and if she does not go in there will be trouble."

Barcode in Fairview also drew the crowds. One guy from Malahide Community School who was waiting in line said: "There's a great crowd here tonight. No one is here to cause trouble, we all just want to celebrate our results with friends and enjoy the night. I think we have seen from the goings-on of previous years that it's just not worth ruining your night by being a drunken mess and not getting into the club. So it's alcohol free for me all the way."

However, all was not so rosy for a group of girls from St Dominic's High School, Santa Sabina in Sutton. Their friend Manik Murphy had died tragically that day after being hit by a train just two hours after picking up her Junior Cert results. One friend of hers told me: "Manik leapt in front of a train after she got her Junior Cert results today. We are still in shock that she would do this after getting seven honours. She left all her friends a note saying her goodbyes and not to judge her for what she had done. "She was aiming to get good grades to get into the Institute, so she didn't go out at all last year. Nowadays the competitiveness is fierce, it really is unbelievable. The points are too high, it is so unfair. Exams, at the end of the day, when put into perspective, don't mean that much but the pressure out there to perform is unreal and it is only getting worse."

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